As Tong Yan made the statement, his expression was quite peaceful, and his tone was rather normal; but if one thought about it deeply, the remark was full of mockery and it was a put-down, almost as if he was ignoring the existence of his opponent.
Shang Jiulou's expression had changed abruptly, with his face turning red; but he couldn't respond properly, as he had no choice but to admit that his talent was far inferior to Tong Yan's.
An exaggerated laugh burst out in front of that large tree.
"Hahahaha…Tong Yan, you are arrogant and have no respect for others as rumored…but, I like it."
Gu Yuanyuan said while laughing, "I have studied all of your playing records. I have to admit that your talent is indeed excellent; but I'm not so bad either. So we should give it a try later."
Tong Yan glanced at him once, saying, "The Broadsword King doesn't know how to play Go, but he expects you to change others' impression of the northerners who are barbaric and lack intelligence. That isn't a very smart tactic."
"How could you say so?" Gu Yuanyuan snapped.
"Since he doesn't know anything about playing Go, how could he judge how well you can play it?!"
After Tong Yan made this remark with an emotionless expression, he moved on.
Queniang bowed with slightly bent knees, a greeting in courtesy for a half-master.
Tong Yan didn't stop, but said to Queniang, "I won't like playing with that northerner, you beat him."
Upon hearing this, Queniang was quite happy. It was a great compliment when Tong Yan showed confidence in someone.
The freckles on the young woman's face seemed to have jumped up in excitement, but Gu Yuanyuan's expression turned so unpleasant that it was unbearable to even look at it.
As Bai Zao witnessed this scene silently from the forest, she shook her head imperceptibly, her face vaguely visible behind the white veil.
Xiang Wanshu followed Tong Yan moving forward, wearing a bitter smile on his face.
Though the Center Sect was the biggest Cultivation sect in the world, as considered by many people, at least considered by the disciples of the Center Sect themselves, the way his big brother talked was a little too straightforward. The scholars of the One-Cottage House might not care so much about these remarks, but Gu Yuanyuan was someone snatched personally by the Broadsword King from the North Army.
Worst of all, his big brother even commented that the great Broadsword King was not intelligent…
If the Broadsword King became angry, those masters of their sect might use the incident as an excuse to thwart the marriage between Tong Yan and his Big Sister.
"Tong Yan, your mental state is problematic today. You talk too much nonsense. So I'm worried about you."
A voice suddenly came from somewhere in the valley.
A waft of alcohol odor also came with the voice, but the odor wasn't too strong, even someone like Queniang who disliked alcohol the most didn't feel it repulsive.
Upon hearing this voice and smelling the alcohol odor, Se Se was startled a bit, but soon she became excited and quickly pulled on Jing Jiu's sleeve.
"That person with real competitive power is here!"
The tall man who had just come out from the bushes was He Zhan.
Yet, he had another more famous name in the Cultivation world, the "Second One".
"Why does he have such a name?" Zhao Layue asked.
Se Se explained, "It's because he can only win second place either at the Plum Meeting or the Cultivation Competition…"
"How can he participate in the Cultivation Competition?" asked Zhao Layue with arched eyebrows.
Se Se sighed before saying, "Big Sister Zhao, it seems that you don't chitchat much in your life…you are off the topic again. Anyway he is an exceptional case. Let's get back to the Plum Meeting. He has participated in three plum meetings, and every time he ended up winning second place in the chess, calligraphy, painting and Cultivation tournaments. He is a real talent, good at everything. That's why many female practitioners like him."
"Since he is an all-rounder, why didn't he also take part in the zither tournament?" asked Zhao Layue.
Se Se replied, "I heard that he thinks playing zither is only for women."
Zhao Layue shook her head, losing interest in this person; but she was somewhat puzzled. If he had won so many second places at the plum meetings, he must have been very famous, but how come she had never heard of his name?
"He is a traveling practitioner. Oh…it's said that he has contacts within those deviant sects, and the young master of the Mysterious Dark Sect is his good friend; so, the senior masters of various sects had suppressed his fame in secret. Yet, he is still very famous. I'm surprised that you and Jing Jiu haven't heard of him."
Se Se was bewildered.
Zhao Layue knew about that young master of the Mysterious Dark Sect. It was said that his Cultivation talent was even better than Luo Huainan's, so he was very famous in the Cultivation world.
--Then he must have been really famous if Zhao Layue had heard of him.
"Since he has contacts with the deviant sects, why is he allowed to participate in the Plum Meeting? Even in the Cultivation Competition?"
"It's said that the senior masters of various sects like his talent and potential, and they don't want to see him join the deviant sects. That is why he is given such special treatments…"
Se Se suddenly spoke in a hushed voice, "My mother said, the real reason for treating him this way is that many Cultivation sects want to take him as their disciple as he doesn't belong to any sect yet."
Having heard this, Jing Jiu thought this man named He Zhan wasn't so bad, especially the title "Second One", wondering if he should take him as a disciple.
He instinctively touched his wrist, and realized that he had wrapped his bracelet around the hand of that little vixen, Xiao He of Ying City, a long time ago. And he thought that Shisui should have already left that small village, hoping that everything would go as planned, and Shisui would come back the same as that former young man he was, not like what had happened to his big brother back then…
He Zhan was tall and muscular. It looked like he had been lying in the bushes the entire time; otherwise he would have been already discovered by someone.
He dusted off the loose grass on his clothes and came to Yong Yan's side while carrying a jar of alcohol. He Zhan looked over Tong Yan, feeling dubious.
Tong Yan's attitude toward him was quite different, saying, "I thought you were not coming this time."
"Of course, I'd like to come, especially since some exciting events might happen here."
He Zhan gave out a smile while looking at the bank of the brook in the distance.
Jing Jiu and his cohorts were there.
Tong Yan glanced at the spot once, saying, "You and I are all arrogant players, and now there is one more. So, what's the big deal."
"I met a young man a few days ago. He was the opposite of arrogant players like us. I have learned something from him and made some progress."
He Zhan said with a serious expression, "I think I can beat you this time."
"Really?" Tong Yan wasn't so sure.
He Zan added, "If you have stayed the same level as last year when we were in the Double-Mountain Town."
"Then you have no hope this year," Tong Yan said.
Having said that, Tong Yan resumed walking toward the inside of the mountain.
He Zan kept up with his footsteps, saying stubbornly, "I won't believe you until we have played."
The sunlight shone on the water of the brook that was surrounded by the green trees.
Tong Yan didn't take a look at Jing Jiu and his cohorts as he passed them.
He Zhan stopped short and cupped his hands in courtesy toward them, asking with a serious tone, "You…are you that person?
As he was asking the question, He Zhan didn't look at Jing Jiu, but Zhao Layue instead.
It was apparent that he didn't care about Jing Jiu participating in the chess tournament, he was merely curious about the rumored Zhao Layue.
Zhao Layue responded, "So what?!"
He Zhan arched his eyebrows before lifting his jar of alcohol.
Zhao Layue shook her head.
He Zhan displayed an awkward expression.
Se Se asked out of curiosity, "Is that the rumored Dragon-Bone Wine you have brewed yourself?"
"It was just an old dragon killed by an immortal of the previous generation. I was lucky enough to have collected a few of the bones."
He Zhan said with a smile, "The bones' effect has long gone after so many years in the wine; but it still tastes pretty good. Want to give it a try?"
Se Se glanced at Big Sister Cui sideways.
He Zhan laughed heartily, saying, "Let's go over there to have a chat."
He Zhan took the young girl upstream to eat barbecued fish and drink wine.
Not everyone was in such a mood to enjoy themselves like these two.
Everybody else focused their attention upon Tong Yan, wondering which pavilion he would choose.
Tong Yan stood by the cliff's edge, looking at the outside of the mountain with his hands on his back; his clothes were fluttering in the wind, and they made a rustling sound.
There was no pavilion there, just like the bank of the brook where Jing Jiu stayed.
The discussions on the Chess Board Mountain grew louder.
It seemed that Tong Yan would stand by the cliff's edge until the chess tournament began.
Nobody could tell how long it would take.
Zhao Layue suddenly told Jing Jiu, "Don't take out your chair."
Jing Jiu was taken aback, as he was just about to pull out his bamboo chair. "Are you concerned about this as well?" Jing Jiu asked.
Zhao Layue answered, "You are representing the Green Mountain as you take part in the tournament today, so we have to behave properly."
Jing Jiu thought what she said was reasonable, so he sat down right on the grass.
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